The Jaguars are 3-3 heading into the bye week, just as they were last year, but that's where the comparison ends.
"It feels different, a lot different," coach Jack Del Rio said at his weekly Monday press conference, a day after his team rallied for a 23-20 overtime victory against the winless St. Louis Rams.
What's so different about this year's 3-3? It belongs to a young team on the rise. Last year's 3-3 was followed by eight losses in the final 10 games of the season and an offseason gutting of the roster.
"I inherited a team with a strong work ethic. Last year, we had an aging team that wasn't able to work as hard as this one does," Del Rio said.
Del Rio clings to his hard work mantra.
"It's a young group of guys. They're very committed to working hard. We will improve as a football team," Del Rio said in an oft-repeated message.
The Jaguars have already shown significant improvement this season, having won three of their last four games to put them at .500 in their bye week. A look at the schedule might even cause some of the team's more optimistic fans to think the Jaguars could make a run at the postseason. None of the next four opponents have a winning record and only three of the final 10 opponents are currently in the black.
The Jaguars also have a few other things in their favor, beginning with a quarterback who has played well over the last month of the season. Garrard has an 89.6 passer rating in the last four games.
He suffered a nightmarish interception with 4:36 to play in Sunday's win. Defensive end Leonard Little's interception and touchdown return staked the Rams to a 17-13 lead and left Garrard facing one of the most critical drives of his career. Seventy-five yards later, the Jaguars were in the end zone and after the Rams sent the game into overtime, Garrard moved the ball 62 yards for the game-winning field goal.
"David Garrard brought us back in the face of tough circumstances," Del Rio said. "The NFL is a quarterback-driven league for sure. If your quarterback is playing well, it certainly gives you a shot in every ballgame."
Nearly everything about the Jaguars as they head into their bye week is of a positive nature. The lone setback is a finger injury cornerback Rashean Mathis sustained on Sunday that could result in surgery, though Del Rio said it wouldn't be season-ending.
"There's potential there for an issue with his hand," Del Rio said.
Maurice Jones-Drew was awarded the game ball on offense for a performance that included 33 rushing attempts for 133 yards and three touchdowns, and five receptions for 45 yards. A "real passionate performance," Del Rio said.
Defensive lineman Atiyyah Ellison got the game ball on defense and Quentin Groves was the winner on special teams.
Del Rio said the team "will take a look at ourselves" in the bye week. They might even like what they see.